Ernie Rains bought his first pinball machine about 18 months ago — a Beatles-themed pinball machine that plays 12 different songs.
Rains wanted an older machine.
“I’m of the generation — we grew up where if you went into a pool hall or bowling alley, there were always pinball machines,” Rains said.
For a while he enjoyed having the machine in his house, playing it with friends and eventually found other players near him in the area through the website, Pinside.com.
Maintenence became an issue, as it would with older machines. It was through the website that Rains found Steven Gentry, a pinball acquisition expert with 25 machines of his own, who ran pinball leagues and tournaments out of his home. This brought him to Gentry’s friend Scott Mount, a pinball machine repairman, and Bryan Briggs, who is able to fix older pinball machines inside and out.
“We kind of formed a team,” he said. “All I brought to the team was money and leadership, but we agreed that we could put together a collection of 20 different machines …to build an arcade.”
The trio settled on the name Rock n’ Roll Pinball, because they have so many machines named for bands like the Beatles, the Who and Aerosmith.
Other machines are named for other pop culture phenomena, the Terminator, Star Trek, the Munsters, Baywatch and the like. The men also acquired a couple of video game arcade machines.
For the $15 entry, guests will get a wristband and be able to play as long as they like. Rain adds that they will serve alcohol, as well as non-alcoholic beverages and packaged snacks. Menus for the different restaurants in the area will also be on hand.
“My gauge for it being a success is not if it makes money, but if it will become a hangout,” Rains said. “Does it become a place where people just want to come and be there for a while and maybe make a few new friends?”
Rock n’ Roll Pinball is set to move into the All Aboard children’s boutique storefront by the end of March.
“This is something I think people are going to be very curious about and intrigued to see what all Rock n’ Roll (Pinball) has to offer,” Pam Powers-Smith, president of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, said. “Downtown has so many diverse businesses that there’s something for everyone. Pinball is an example of that.”
In addition to the arcade space, Rain said there will also be a TV lounge with leather furniture that could potentially be used for hosting parties and events.
“We want to introduce pinball to those who have never played, the older generation to bring that back to them,” Rains said. “Opelika is perfect for this.”